It’s more than coding for kids.

I have been an educator for over 17 years.  Throughout my career, I have made it my goal to help kids create things.  It has always been about the process and the big ideas I could teach kids through that process.  So, when I started teaching kids to code, I wasn’t just trying to prepare the next generation of Google employees.  I saw coding as a powerful medium for helping kids create and realized the enormous potential for what they could learn along the way.

Yes, it is true coding is becoming an essential skill.

Some would even argue that learning to code is becoming as important as learning to read.  Even if they don’t end up having to use Javascript or Python in their future career, many will use some form of a coding language in their day to day work.  The development of user friendly coding languages/graphical interfaces is making coding more accessible to everyone, but to be successful in using these tools, students need to be proficient at using logic, creatively solving problems, and debugging their work.  Coding is great at teaching these skills no matter what language students decide to learn.

But, I teach coding for even bigger reasons.

I teach coding because I see the excitement on a kid’s face when he/she is sharing something they created from scratch.  Learning to code is empowering as it gives kids the tools to create and the confidence to believe they can. Getting kids to see this means they start to view themselves as creators and they branch out to pursue other creative endeavors.  In a future where many tasks will be taken over by machines/robotics, the ability to create and innovate will be a highly valued skill.

Coding teaches kids to create the steps and not just follow them.

We spend so much time in school trying to get kids to follow directions and prescribed steps.  Unfortunately, in our current world, being able to follow directions won’t be enough. Those that are successful will be able to create the steps and procedures necessary to bring something into reality.  Coding allows students to experience creating steps and procedures both in writing their code and designing projects around that code.  

Coding teaches kids to deal with adversity and work through a problem.

In my Video Game Design classes, most of my students will come to a point in the creation of their game where they face a problem that seems impossible to overcome.  At this point, they get to see what it really takes to make a vision a reality. I am able to help most them work through their problem to bring their game to completion.  Through this process, they learn how to overcome adversity and not quit on their idea.  

I make sure they learn to create something with code.

I could keep going about the benefits of teaching kids to code, but I think it’s also important to think about how we teach coding.  While I believe any coding is great exercise for the mind and will yield many of the benefits above, having students create things that they plan and design is the most beneficial.  Students should be creating video games, apps, Minecraft mods, and more. It’s simply not enough to just have students complete coding activities. These are great for beginners, but students should eventually be expected to produce something with what they learn.

I think as parents and educators, it is challenging to decide what to focus on with our kids because the world is changing so rapidly.  This is especially true with coding since we don’t know which languages will be used in the future or how the act of coding will even look down the road.  But, students are getting so much more from coding than just learning a specific language that I think it should be an important learning goal for your child or student.

Shawn Walk is the owner and lead instructor at Code2Discover.  He has been teaching coding, creating, and other 21st century skills to kids for over 17 years. Shawn has an active Pennsylvania Teaching Certification and also is a National Board Certified teacher. Additionally, he has a Masters Degree in education.   

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About the author: Shawn D. Walk is the owner of Code2Discover, a business dedicated to helping students discover their ability to create and shape the world around them through coding. He has been teaching technology, coding, and 21st century skills for nearly 15 years. He is a certified elementary teacher in PA and has a Masters Degree in Curriculum and Instruction. He is also a previous owner of an educational technology company that pioneered using Minecraft as an educational tool in the Pittsburgh region. His goal is to help kids learn the skills they need in today’s world, but also help them believe they can be the creators of new technology instead of simply consuming it.
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